Will someone tell John McCain that the wife beating jokes just aren’t funny?

 

In an interview that appeared in the Las Vegas Sun yesterday:

Jon Ralston of Las Vegas Sun: (On why he didn’t choose Gov. Jim Gibbons to chair his Nevada campaign?)

John McCain: I appreciate his support. As you know, the lieutenant governor is our chairman.

Ralston: (Why snub the governor?)

McCain: I didn’t mean to snub him,. I’ve known the lieutenant governor for 15 years and we’ve been good friends….I didn’t intend to snub him. There are other states where the governor is not the chairman.

Ralston: (Maybe it’s the governor’s approval rating and you are running from him like you are from the president?)

McCain: (Chuckling) And I stopped beating my wife just a couple of weeks ago….

Now, a few people have pointed out that John McCain was referencing what’s apparently a well-known euphemism for a loaded question or character assassination (for example, a journalist will ask out of the blue “when did you stop beating your wife?” implying that the domestic violence was taking place at all). But, I personally had never heard of the phrase in that context before this interview. And for a politician who’s already been under fire for his stance on women’s and reproductive rights (not to mention for verbally abusing his wife) don’t you think he should be a little more, oh I don’t know, choosey with his words?

I find the idea that a presidential candidate could flippantly throw around references to domestic violence disturbing. I mean, if he’s making jokes like this on the campaign trail, what in the world would he do on the policy front? And as my mother always said, sarcasm always has an element of truth…

What are your thoughts?

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7 Comments

  1. MzBitca
    Posted June 27, 2008 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    I actually have heard this phrase used in many ways and by many different people. I am not offended by it because it’s phrased int hat, obviously domestic violence is bad, however, I do not think the way he referred to it was good just because it is not as well known and he wasn’t using the same phrasing that needs to be there to realize the point of the statement?
    Also it doesn’t work well as a loaded question
    “When did you stop beating your wife?”
    answer: “I have never beat my wife”

  2. MzBitca
    Posted June 27, 2008 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    I actually have heard this phrase used in many ways and by many different people. I am not offended by it because it’s phrased int hat, obviously domestic violence is bad, however, I do not think the way he referred to it was good just because it is not as well known and he wasn’t using the same phrasing that needs to be there to realize the point of the statement?
    Also it doesn’t work well as a loaded question
    “When did you stop beating your wife?”
    answer: “I have never beat my wife”

  3. z.h.
    Posted June 27, 2008 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    MzB, it’s because the OP didn’t phrase the question quite correctly — the loaded question is, “Are you still beating your wife?” In a yes-or-no situation like a courtroom, the person who answers always loses. (Obviously you could get out of it, but it’s just an example.)
    I’m sure McCain was only trying to point out that the interviewer was asking a loaded question; however, it was definitely an unfortunate choice of euphemism. What amazes me is the ridiculous stuff that comes out of these politicians’ mouths at such regular intervals. It’s like they’re just human beings or something.

  4. Christina
    Posted June 28, 2008 at 1:25 am | Permalink

    he’s just out of his mind. let him have his stupid sarcasm, it makes it much easier for democrats and independents like myself to harpoon him. :)

  5. Lane Haygood
    Posted June 28, 2008 at 4:49 am | Permalink

    It’s actually a type of rhetorical fallacy called “begging the question” or, in Latin, petitio principii.
    It means that the question you ask assumes the truth of a different, tacit question. The question, “When did you stop beating your wife?” assumes that one has, at some point in the past, started beating his wife.
    There are, of course, different examples that perhaps McCain could have used. That being said, the immediately preceding question wasn’t really a form of question-begging. I suppose one could say that it begged the question of whether McCain was “running from the president,” but the question doesn’t assume the truth of that. It uses it as an illustration via simile.

  6. Posted June 28, 2008 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    The classic form of the question is -
    “Yes or No, have you stopped beating your wife?”
    Leading to the only possible answers -
    Yes – meaning you did beat your wife but have stopped now.
    or
    No – meaning you do beat your wife and continue to do so.
    It’s a rhetorical trap, where the only proper answer of “I’ve never beaten my wife” is excluded by the question itself.
    So, I can see why he uses this sarcastically as he’s forced to choose between two bad options in this interview, but he really does put it in a bad way doesn’t he? Poor lad isn’t exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer.

  7. Tom Head
    Posted June 28, 2008 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    I second Akheloios. I wouldn’t call it a wife-beating joke, but it’s one more sign that the next four months are going to produce some interesting quotes from the Republican nominee.

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